In the above explanation I use the terminology “Ammon-like” that will be used throughout this writing, and especially for non-Mormon readers I should explain. Ammon was an important young man from ancient America whose life is detailed in the Book of Mormon, that Mormons, or LDS people, believe to be the history of ancient America and a companion book with the Bible, both of which we accept as sacred history and “witnesses of Jesus Christ.” Ammon had been a rebellious son of an important leader, but who was converted much the same as had happened to Paul in the New Testament. With his conversion he believed the Lord wanted him to go as a missionary among a rebellious faction of his day the book calls, Lamanites.
Along with his brothers and companions they were criticized or “laughed to scorn” by their own people, but they nonetheless dedicated their lives to helping the Lamanites and were the first to experience success in such a dangerous God-appointed mission. The first phase of his effort was a span of 14 years, so “Ammon-like” usually refers to a 14 year period. Ammon himself actually continued among his Lamanite converts his entire life—I believe because he married one of them.
NOW BACK TO "THE STORY"
It couldn't be as bad as where gossip and rumor has taken the history causing the loss of many friends.
As explained further along, it would be…..
So, I will now begin to stick my neck out and give all a chance to understand this PART 2 of my autobiography entitled PREPARATION, but in this book, A FIFTY YEAR “IMPOSSIBLE DREAM” IN THE MOUNTAINS OF THE MAYA, will be Part 1: THE MYSTERIOUS CAUSE & PREPARATION TO ACT, followed by Part 2, The RISKY….JOURNEY, and concluded in Part 3, with the “rest of the story” in the COMPLETE FINAL REPORT that comes last.
To guide me in gradually revealing all--I had a very profound dream, that two times was interrupted by waking for various reasons, but each time as I went back to bed, the dream continued without missing a beat, convincing me it was much more than a simple dream.
I saw myself invited to speak in LDS General Conference but told not to worry about what I would say as it would be on the teleprompter. Nevertheless, I felt like I had to prepare in my mind a special message just in case.
For better understanding I’ll quote a few paragraphs of that future chapter—THE RISKY…..JOURNEY, as it mentions clearly our reasons and what would be our necessary preparation.
“Our final leaving for Guatemala was after having failed the first time, and we had to return to Provo, go back to work for Andersen Samplers & Consulting Service, and wait for authorization to go through Mexico with our huge load. I'll quote a paragraph or two for complete understanding, coming out of it with a list of our reasons for making the move.
“Two weeks or so later a telegram came and we packed up for the 2nd time and headed for Mexico. But this time, before leaving, had a 2-hour long heart-to-heart talk with my parents who had been understandably doubtful and scared to death about what we were to attempt. Dad had previously tried to talk me out of it in what at times almost became heated conversations. Once he shocked me saying,
"No cursed people in the history of the world have ever been able to rise above it! You will be sacrificing you and your family in vain!"
I was shocked that a true believer in the BOOK OF MORMON would say such, and decided to not debate the matter anymore, rather quietly continue our preparations. Eventually, Dad, seeing my resolve decided to support us even without full understanding.
We had left the first time without any further discussion, but having to return "with my tail between my legs," as elderly Sister Cannon had predicted, I felt strongly there was purpose in it, and believed I had to have a heart to heart talk with mom and dad.
I requested they let me talk without interruption, but to jot down any comments or questions to deal with afterwards. I described emotionally the long chain of spiritual experiences had since I was a young boy.”
So, Maria was raised by her aunt, in Tierra Blanca, and they were all early converts to Mormonism we see in an old photograph of the LDS branch members.
Maria is the little girl shading her eyes on the left, next to her brother Albert, and then Graciela, also shading her eyes. I’ll insert below the complete group picture with a special purpose as in it we see on the back row, far left, one of the young—but very tall, full time LDS missionaries, who good fortune would have it was HAROLD BROWN, who years later became one of the most key actors in our entire history.
one tough bunch of little guys registered a new team,
WOW I LOVE FOOTBALL!
We then continued to Lake Atitlan that some believe to be
“the most beautiful lake in the world.”
We continued to Chichicastenango, and then back to the city and....
........down the Atlantic Coast Highway to visit the magnificent ruins of QUIRIGUA, getting more wonderful photographs.
....and on to the mountain stronghold of remote Coban—COLONIAL GUATEMALA where Maria was able to see there was one General Store, one Dental Clinic, one pharmacy, an old government Hospital and schools.
INTERESTING PROBLEM FROM TESTIMONY MEETING
Soon after returning from our trip to Guatemala having made a lot of headway with Maria, one of our Guatemalan members of the Branch, who along with her family had been converted by John O'Donnal in Retalhuleu, had also made a trip back to Guatemala. She stood in Testimony Meeting, and described how she had literally been tortured in Guatemala to witness all the poverty and suffering, and said it was so depressing that she had made the decision to forget all that human misery and never return to her country. I of course thought, "What a disaster! Rather than be concerned for her suffering people and wanting to do something to help, she rather put blinders on, and turned her back on her people."
Gratefully, Maria also reacted as I did. Interestingly years later when living in Guatemala I learned that said member's younger brother, Julio Cesar, an LDS University student in Guatemala City had become the leader of the main Guerrilla rebel group in the country. Somehow, as far as I know it never became public knowledge that he was a Mormon. Eventually he, and his brother, Alfonso, were both killed by Guatemalan security forces.
THE CHAT WITH MY PARENTS POINT OUT MORE KEY EVENTS
“perfect marriage” – finally.
"The devil is trying to tempt me!"
“You aren’t going with. I’m going alone!”
I continued my fast, and the next day, October 24th had the Sunday of my life. In Priesthood meeting, there was some kind of discussion going on, and the Elder’s Quorum President, Roque Quiroz, turned to me and said, “President Andersen, can you help us?” I gave a simple explanation.
During those years the plot would thicken somewhat and I would actually be given the opportunity to fulfill the covenant of Celestial Marriage, and in a tragic sense “lose Maria,” not as anticipated, but nonetheless lost—but, as we’ll see maybe not forever.
We see to the right Garth examining one of the negatives in my camper/darkroom, with containers of all the chemicals I had to use to process daily the film—to make sure what I was getting was professional quality for Garth’s purposes.
They needed help, and…
SACRIFICED A LOT TO MAKE THE RISKY MOVE
In the upcoming RISKY…..JOURNEY chapter, I explain how we had to get rid of a lot of our, sort of opulent life, and I explain: NOTE: Prior to leaving I had sold all my firearms including my first 30-06 deer rifle, my beloved Ruger Single-Six revolver, etc. gave away all our furniture and excessive clothes, dishes and cookware, etc. to needy families, but did take my fishing equipment. This for me was a big deal as I loved to that point activities like deer hunting, and even bragged about getting a big buck every year in my first 11 years of the hunt. During the years of PREPARATION, I justified getting my first four-wheel-drive vehicle—the first International Harvester 4 x 4 called a Scout, rationalizing it would be our RISKY JOURNEY 4 x 4 vehicle, and in my spare time built on the tiny vehicle a camper—I’m still proud of the beautiful camper, building it with only an electric drill, and saber saw. I’ll insert a picture of it I used on one of my last successful hunts before leaving for Guatemala.
As leaving for Guatemala was approaching as a real possibility I had to honestly conclude my beloved Scout was just too small for my entire family, and so I tearfully sold it, and invested $2,150 in a new Ford 150 pickup, bought a camper and built into it cabinets, table, etc. and used it the first time with Garth Norman on our archaeological “Tree of Life Stela” expedition in 1966, and by mid-1967 had it modified more—with a boot giving access between cab and camper, and with a handmade equipment rack on top of the cab and we were ready.
So, on July 12, 1967, with a lot of faith, we headed south the FIRST TIME to Nogales, Arizona/Mexico to cross the border. Then on August 9th, we had our heart to heart talk with my parents, then received a “Father’s blessing,” and left for THE SECOND ATTEMPT and soon we were legally driving carefully south through Mexico towards Guatemala.
It would not be easy, but we knew that the Lord would be with us as long as we heeded His promptings and did the best we could. That JOURNEY was successful the...
Part 2 the epic history
...disappear into the jungles and mountains of the Maya and with my family serve the Lord and his "little ones" in my own simple way--following the example of one of my heroes from the Book of Mormon history, Ammon, from ancient America...
...all in harmony with the inspiration, guidance and the opportunities
the Lord would give me.
On the other hand I believed in the Lord's words when He said,
"....men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.....he that doeth not anything until he is commanded......is damned." (D&C 58:26-29).
I didn't believe in "polishing apples" and cultivating the right friendships as I noticed a few doing to increase their chances of being "called," but rather thought,
"If the Lord was ever to speak to his Prophet calling me to whatever,
he more than likely would be perplexed exclaiming,
the first friend and LDS leader to begin calling me
Digging even deeper he would likely become angry seeing how the film was squelched by the unrighteous intervention of one of his leaders, leaving the way open for me to write about our history as I'm now doing.
I should mention that after what was called "a prophetic tour of Central
America" at the end of 1957 by LDS General Authority Hugh B. Brown, it was common for many missionaries to believe we had a continuing responsibility for the people, especially for the critically needy Indians of Guatemala who he explained clearly had "A PROPHETIC DESTINY" in which some of us were to play an important role.
I especially was impacted by Hugh B. Brown as in a missionary meeting in Managua he called me by name and prophesied about my future that would be among the indigenous people Mormons call Lamanites. This was another crucial link in a long chain of personal, spiritually transformative experiences that dominated my life in a serious way and influenced me to be very deliberate and dedicated about my future.
So, early on there were two efforts by ex-LDS missionaries to return to Guatemala to be of some help--Vernon Webster & Gary Cooper-- but, they hadn't lasted more than six months and have been forgotten.
family pioneering endeavor was different--first achieving a 14 year "Ammon-like" period, but then persisting and was still going strong after 50 years, and so perhaps is historically of great value to report about fully and honestly. It didn't work out being just another crazy, flash in the pan, ill-prepared undertaking as everyone but my father had predicted, but honestly
reporting the truth has strangely ruffled feathers.
having the guts to do it. Whether you're in favor or not,
understand or not, it was a
speaking to me in Coban as a missionary in 1958, and then on
the snowy slopes of the Henry Mountains in fall 1965--
--giving me the courage to do as I knew I had to do!"
not give in to the "bribe system."
It is important to keep this in mind as I was eventually
accused falsely of being dishonest, untrustworthy and
involved in an illegal project mentioned below.
HONESTY THE BEST POLICY?
This was, as far as we knew, the beginning of what came to be called
"a spirit of competition rather than cooperation."
Sadly he was able to convince key leaders of the same and lies were believed, repeated and then repeated widely to many. I have not been liked by mentioning this, but the TRUTH MUST BE KNOWN.
-likely still believed by many today. Other critical historical inaccuracies and omissions are troubling to say the least in the autobiography, all of these raising doubts about his entire book. Some details are related in the
FINAL REPORT, item #20, etc.
NOW TO THE CHALLENGE!
INCUBATORS FOR SICKNESS & DEATH
Foundation historical reports (2nd page), and in Part 1 of this writing.
October LDS Ex-Missionary Reunion for Central American missionaries.
I showed them graphically with slides the beautifully colorful Guatemalan culture, but then shocked them with the other side of the coin--the desperate life and death needs of the people we had worked with and claimed to love, then suggested something had to be done. An ex-Mission President in attendance was terribly offended I had mentioned sick and dying LDS Indian babies and converts and angrily rushed at me to argue. That was the beginning of realizing that telling the truth was perplexingly dangerous, yet it had to be reported if anything positive was to eventually be done. The FINAL REPORT will describe a whole chain of such events with one very hopeful outcome, but a steep price was paid!
That visual presentation provoked a discussion afterward, some of the group being supportive of doing something, but saying they were in no position to do anything, then telling me,
"You be the guinea pig. If the experiment works, we'll follow!"
But the overall reaction paraphrased from two who would become LDS Church leaders was:
SO IN MID-1967, WITH A LOT OF FAITH, WE HEADED SOUTH TO NOGALES, ARIZONA/MEXICO TO CROSS THE BORDER
There’s nothing we could do but relax for a week, so we had finally a family vacation, swimming and playing in the warm waters of the Sea of Cortez. David and me used some of the time to experience some great fishing for Spanish mackerel, and other tropical fish, and so ate a lot of delicious freshly caught fish.
And were even lucky enough for the first time in my experience from our own small aluminum boat catching an exotic Dorado, even though small for these famous fishing treasurers.
But of most importance we experienced there the FIRST MIRACLE when David and Julie were saved after having been set adrift alone on the open ocean in our aluminum boat when the anchor rope was cut by a surging sea! I had been skin diving and when returning where the boat had been--found it gone, and went into action.
Then after failing again to start the motor, prayed again, and as they raised their heads they saw me 200 yards distant swimming to their rescue and made it just seconds before being dashed onto a rocky shoreline by the large waves. I climbed aboard, immediately started the motor and got us out of danger, then we had an emotional moment all of us hugging each other with grateful tears and we then knelt embracing each other and offered a humble prayer of gratitude to the Lord.
By the way, Maria, did an incredible job helping me recover the anchor, which required her to operate the boat, backing into the spot so I could jump out and start the search, and while I searched head out to sea and hold the position waiting for my signal to back in and pick me up. The print version of this story goes through all the details of her great effort.
I went back to work producing Andersen Samplers, earning enough in a couple of weeks to pay for all the losses due to extra travel, enough for the Custom's Broker, and the bond he required.
SECOND ATTEMPT & MORE MIRACLES
It was a humbling and tearful experience for all of us. On conclusion of my explanation, they were humbly quiet seemingly understanding--at least accepting. I then asked my father for a "Father's Blessing," which he tearfully gave me--and was faithful doing his part in helping its fulfillment for the last 16 years of his life.
To the right, Maria is playing with Dave and Julie on the Veracruz beach where began my "CANTINFLAS...comedian ordeal" 11 years later, described at the end of the FINAL REPORT.
As we traveled we observed as always fascinating typical scenes. One memorable one was of a pickup after a baseball game loaded even more than ours.
One of those 10 became an astounding experience when fishing with top-water lures the large-mouth black bass all of a sudden erupted out of the water in a spectacular leap and came down with mouth wide open on the lure and the fight was on, becoming one of the great fishing experiences of my life!
NOTE: Years later a skin diver with speargun got a 27 lb. large mouth black bass here that a week before I almost caught on fishing equipment. If I had of been successful, it would still be a WORLD RECORD.
I headed for Guatemala City, passing through Valparaiso for the first time--of course never imagining at that time that I would eventually spend 26 years of my life there.
I bought flu medicines in Tactic and continued to the City where the next afternoon I had a date to have dinner with Berkley Spencer and his wife, Carolyn--he was considered by me to be the greatest missionary from my time, and was back in Guatemala working on his PhD. During that dinner I all of a sudden had my first attack of malaria resultant from the photo shoots in the jungle at night 15 days before. Berkley gave me medications.
The next day I headed for Mexico City where I had to go to the National Anthropological Museum to retake a couple of photographs for Garth, then continued north stopping at what we called...
Saturday, August 19, 1967.
"Then, they are used!"
"THE LAND OF ETERNAL SPRING"